Congo-Brazzaville, the nation officially known as the Republic of the Congo, has joined the ranks of nations standing ground against illegal ivory poaching, by torching an enormous pile of elephant ivory seized several weeks ago. President Denis Sassou Nguesso set ablaze around 5 metric tons (11,000 pounds) of ivory, mostly tusks, during a summit to create the first pan-African strategy to combat wildlife poaching. African elephant populations have rapidly declined in recent decades, primarily due to illegal poaching.

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This burn makes Congo-Brazzaville the 13th nation to destroy ivory confiscated from illegal poachers. Last year, China used a giant crushing machine to pulverize $10 million worth of ivory ornaments, carvings and tusks in front of press and government officials. France took part in a similar event last year, a public crushing of more than 3 tons of illegal ivory worth around $1.4 million. Similar burns were held in Kenya and Ethiopia earlier this spring as well. By making a public spectacle of the destruction, authorities hope to send a message that the quest for ‘blood ivory’ will not be tolerated.

Related: China pledges to stop domestic ivory trade and protect elephants

The Congo-Brazzaville burn was as symbolic as it was blatant, according to Anthony Kwaku Ohemeng-Boamah, country representative of the UN Development Program. “It shows this is something the world community abhors,” he said. “Burning is how most Asian societies dispose of dead bodies. We are disposing of the elephants that have been poached and we wish they were alive.”

The illegal wildlife trade conference resulted in a draft action plan, which will be taken to an African Union summit to be held in South Africa in June. Conference organizers are clear on one thing, though. The African people will have to get more involved in order to end poaching, and some states—like Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania—will have to invest more resources and toughen legislation, something they may not be ready to do.

Via The Guardian

Images via Nicolas Douillet/UN and Global Water Partnership